Aron Gonshor, oral and maxillofacial surgeon and actor with Montreal’s Dora Wasserman’s Yiddish Theatre, was interviewed by Sara Israel on December 15, 2011 at the Montreal Jewish Public Library in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Aron starts the interview by discussing his family background. He was born in Poland after WWII and his family immigrated to Montreal in 1948 after Canada’s immigration policy became more liberal. Aron goes on to describe growing up in Montreal’s flourishing Yiddish-speaking community.
He explains how his parents were members of the Bund, which met at the Montreal branch of the Workmen’s Circle. He also describes how he grew up attending afternoon school there, at the Avrom Reisen Shul. He recalls how the Workmen’s Circle became a home, and the community there became family, for many survivors of the war. Aron explains how Bund meetings, lectures and concerts in Yiddish allowed survivors to live out their lives in a way they were used to, and created a very full, animated atmosphere. For Aron, being enveloped in this environment from childhood, speaking and performing in Yiddish was “as simple as breathing the air.”
Aron also discusses his involvement with Yiddish theatre. He describes the early days of Yiddish theatre in Montreal when Soviet-trained actress Dora Wasserman began to give theatre classes to youths at the Jewish Public Library, and traces the theatre’s development over time. He shares a particular story about traveling to Vienna with the theatre company to perform in Yiddish there and giving a particularly emotional performance of The Dybbuk. He reflects on that visit to Austria and notes that it gave the whole theatre company the understanding that they have a responsibility, as Yiddish speakers, to preserve the legacy of Jewish culture.
Towards the end of the interview, Aron urges the importance of one knowing one’s history, and speaks about the fulfillment of conveying that history to others so that the next generations can build on it.
To learn more about the Wexler Oral History Project, visit: http://www.yiddishbookcenter.org/tell-your-story
To cite this interview: Aron Gonshor Oral History Interview, interviewed by Sara Israel, Yiddish Book Center's Wexler Oral History Project, Montreal, Canada, December 15, 2011. Video recording, http://archive.org/details/AronGonshor15dec2011YiddishBookCenter ( [date accessed] )